Salt is essential for health and necessary for a number of vital biological functions, such as nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and relaxation. Also, consuming salt is key for proper fluid, electrolyte, and mineral balance. However, salt comes in many different forms. There's table salt, sea salt, Himalayan salt, Bamboo salt and a handful of other choices. How do you know which one is the healthiest? Here's a comparison of the healthiest salts found on earth.

A Note on Natural Salt vs Refined Salt

Before we look at the healthiest salts in the world, it's important to understand the difference between natural salt and refined salt or table salt. Natural salts are found naturally in the environment and contain trace amounts of minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and iodine, whereas table salt is highly processed to remove these essential nutrients. In addition, table salt often contains additives and anti-caking agents and is bleached. Experts agree that table salt is responsible for many health issues, whereas unrefined salts heal the body instead of harming it.

Comparing the 4 Healthiest Salts

1. Sea Salt

Most people have heard of sea salt, which is collected from evaporated seawater. While sea salts naturally contain minerals and are unrefined - making them a far better choice than table salt - they're certainly not the healthiest. That's because pollutants in the form of microplastics and heavy metals have slowly contaminated our oceans. A report by South Korea and Greenpeace East Asia reveals that small plastic particles are found in about 90% of commercial sea salts. That said, they still make a solid, economical choice. There are many varieties of sea salt. Each type has its own flavor and texture, influenced by where and how it is harvested. Some common sea salt include:
  • Fleur de sel from France's coastline, which has a delicate, light moist texture
  • Maldon sea salt from the United Kingdom, which is small and flaky
  • Celtic sea salt or sel gris from Brittany, France, which is grey and has coarse, moist grains

2. Himalayan Salt

Himalayan salt is another popular natural salt. It comes from ancient seabeds in the Himalayan mountains. It's rich in minerals, including iron which gives it its pleasingly pink color. However, it may not be ideal if you're trying to avoid heavy metals. An Australian study found heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, and lead in 30+ commercial pink salts.

3. Volcanic Salt

Volcanic lava salt is unrefined and made from volcanic rock salt. Its color can be black or red:
  • Black lava salt (called kala namak) is collected in Hawaii, Iceland, and the Himalayas and contains many minerals, including sulfur, which is believed to help heal a variety of health issues. It's black color is due to its content of activated charcoal, which is useful for detoxification and removing impurities in the body. Unfortunately, black lava salt is said to contain trace amounts of lead and due to it's popularity, is often manufactured and distributed artificially.
  • Hawaiian red salt is another type of unrefined volcanic rock salt. This salt mixes with the Hawaiian clay called alaea which creates its red color. Like black lava salt, red salt is high in minerals, particularly iron, but may contain heavy metals.

4. Bamboo Salt

Bamboo salt might be the least known salt, but its considered to be the healthiest. This is due its high purity, mineral content, and alkalinity which is the result of a meticulous processing method: Following ancient Buddhist monk traditions, sea salt is gathered from the Western Korean coast. It is then sun-dried and deposited into 3-year-old bamboo pillars and sealed with red clay collected from deep in the Korean mountains. Next, the bamboo pillars are placed in an iron kiln and roasted over a pinewood fire at 1472°F for 8-15 hours until the bamboo is incinerated and a white salt pillar remains. Due to this elaborate roasting process, bamboo salt is completely free from toxins and harmful substances such as microplastics and heavy metals. It also retains a very high mineral content of 70+ minerals, including a high proportion of sulphur. Lastly, unlike other sea salts, bamboo salt boasts a high alkalinity of 11.5 pH. Bamboo salt has been used for centuries in Korean traditional medicine for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that improve digestive, oral, eye, skin, and immune health. Learn more about the benefits of bamboo salt.

Salt Comparison Chart

Here's a quick look at the major salts of the world and they compare:

Table salt Kosher salt Sea salt Bamboo Salt Himalayan salt Volcanic rock salt
Source mined from salt deposits mined from salt deposits made by evaporating seawater made from evaporated seawater and roasted in bamboo according to 1,000 year old Buddhist monk tradition mined from the Khewra Salt Mine in Pakistan mined from volcanic areas like Hawaii and Iceland
Composition sodium chloride and additives like anti-clumping agents, typically iodized sodium chloride, not iodized sodium chloride and trace minerals sodium chloride and 70+ trace minerals sodium chloride and trace minerals sodium chloride and trace minerals
Color white white white, gray, or pink purple, grey, or white pinkish tint often red or black
Grain fine, even flakes large, coarse flakes large flakes large flakes and fine powder large flakes large flakes
Types May be referred to as sodium chloride N/A Celtic Sea Salt, Fleur De Sel 9x Purple Bamboo salt, 3x Grey Bamboo Salt N/A Hawaiian red salt (called kala namak), Black lava salt (called kala namak)
Health Risks May contain numerous toxic additives. Microplastics and heavy metals detected Microplastics and heavy metals detected Microplastics found in commercial brands of sea salt None detected Heavy metals detected Heavy metals detected

If you are in the market for the healthiest salt, any of the four aforementioned natural salts will be of high quality, but consider bamboo salt for its purity, mineral content, and alkalinity.

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